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Med Eng Phys. 2011 Jun;33(5):610-9. doi: 10.1016/j.medengphy.2010.12.017. Epub 2011 Jan 15.

Measurement of the force-displacement response of in vivo human skin under a rich set of deformations.

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Auckland Bioengineering Institute, University of Auckland, New Zealand.


The non-linear, anisotropic, and viscoelastic properties of human skin vary according to location on the body, age, and individual. The measurement of skin's mechanical properties is important in several fields including medicine, cosmetics, and forensics. In this study, a novel force-sensitive micro-robot applied a rich set of three-dimensional deformations to the skin surface of different areas of the arms of 20 volunteers. The force-displacement response of each area in different directions was measured. All tested areas exhibited a non-linear, viscoelastic, and anisotropic force-displacement response. There was a wide quantitative variation in the stiffness of the response. For the right anterior forearm, the ratio of the maximum probe reaction force to maximum probe displacement ranged from 0.44 N mm(-1) to 1.45 N mm(-1). All volunteers exhibited similar qualitative anisotropic characteristics. For the anterior right forearm, the stiffest force-displacement response was when the probe displaced along the longitudinal axis of the forearm. The response of the anterior left forearm was stiffest in a direction 20° to the longitudinal axis of the forearm. The posterior upper arm was stiffest in a direction 90° to the longitudinal axis of the arm. The averaged posterior upper arm response was less stiff than the averaged anterior forearm response. The maximum probe force at 1.3mm probe displacement was 0.69N for the posterior upper arm and 1.1N for the right anterior forearm. The average energy loss during the loading-unloading cycle ranged from 11.9% to 34.2%. This data will be very useful for studying the non-linear, anisotropic, and viscoelastic behaviour of skin and also for generating material parameters for appropriate constitutive models.

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